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Prepare yourself for tonight’s Total Solar Eclipse

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At 5.20pm GMT tonight, all of North America will be treated to the incredible sight of a total solar eclipse, with the path pf totality stretching from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Those within the path of totality will see the awe-inspiring sight of a total solar eclipse, where the Sun’s atmosphere (the corona) can be seen forming a halo around the dark circle of the Moon. Here in the UK and across Europe we will still be treated to a partial eclipse of the Sun. (If there’s a break in the clouds!)
(Please take care – never look directly at the Sun – even when it’s partially blocked!)

Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting its shadow on the Earth. Total solar eclipses are possible thanks to a great Cosmic Coincidence – the Moon’s diameter is 400 times smaller than that of the Sun, and it is (on average) 400 times closer to the Earth – meaning that the two bodies appear the same size in our sky.

This also means that, because the Moon is drifting away from the Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year, there will come a time when the Moon will not be able to completely obscure the Sun, and the age of total solar eclipses will be over. There’s no need to worry though, the best guesses put this at 1 billion years from now.

If you want to learn more about what is hiding in our skies, this handy ebook “Astronomy For Dummies” offers an easy introduction.

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